Blog » Wooden Designs by Neogranny
If you happen to love vintage-inspired jewelry like I do then you'll absolutely fall in love with the Charlotte design studio Neogranny. Molly Reilly is the artist and designer behind this collection of laser cut wooden pendants and earrings. She even creates some fabulous silhouette brooches, but I’m hoping she’ll soon offer larger pieces because her work is so unique.
Please introduce yourself to our readers and tell us a little about Neogranny: My name is Molly Reilly and I live in Charlotte, North Carolina. Neogranny is a jewelry line of vintage inspired motifs, laser cut and etched out of birch plywood.
For our readers that are not familiar with laser cutting, can you please describe the process? All of my designs are original line drawings that I create. These drawings are uploaded to a laser cutter, which follows the lines and etches the designs into the wood, which gives a nice burned imprint of my design. Each piece is then hand-painted on both sides with colorful enamels which make the designs pop!
Why did you choose birch as a wood for your jewelry designs? I love the warm feeling of wood for the jewelry; very nice to the touch. The material is lightweight and takes paint really well.
What is the most challenging aspect of laser cut jewelry? There is a time factor. I source all of my work, so I have to wait to receive my efforts. But when that box comes in the mail and I have a fresh batch of little wooden pieces to paint, it's like a belated birthday! Because it is a mechanical process, I like to personalize it with color. Unpainted wood seems so unfinished and cookie cutter to me. Each piece is slightly different once I sand and paint it.
How did you get started? My background is in photography and installation art. My method is to adhere inkjet prints to wood and cut them out with the scroll saw. I built an installation with dozens of seagulls and sparrows. The installation was stunning, if I do say so myself! It travelled to several shows and now the birds live snugly in a couple of Samsonites, waiting their next flight. It's hard to move an installation! After this work, I started thinking of creating stuff on a small scale that would be easier to sell and still carry some of my ideas...thus, Neogranny!
How did you end up in North Carolina from San Francisco? My husband and I are both college teachers. We met while we were in graduate school and have moved around the country based on teaching gigs. It's like rolling dice...you don't know where you will land. We got tired of bouncing around in the mid-west for jobs and decided to move to the Bay Area and see what might happen. Well, a beautiful baby is what happened! So we said bye-bye wonderful, expensive city and took a teaching job in N.C. to be closer to family and hunker down!
Did you go to design school or are you self-taught? My education is in photography, which has been a tremendous influence and certainly helps in my product shots. All of my design skills are self-taught.
How did you come up with you company's name and brand? My work is so inspired by mid-century America but produced in such a digital manner...Neogranny seemed perfect.
Can you describe what your creative process is like? Many, many hours of trolling thrift stores, eBay and estate sales! I see photography as such a root to everything too. My designs are like carefully collected snapshots of very iconographic subjects. I'm an incurable pack rat and came to the conclusion, somewhere in between all of my moving around, to document my stuff. I thought if I had really nice pictures of my things maybe that would be enough and I could get rid of it. That kind of worked but the photographs were inspiration for my drawings of bowling trophies, typewriters, sewing machines; I love the old industrial design.
What inspires you? I am so drawn to things from the past century I often wonder if I am living in the right time. In a lot of ways, each piece in my collection is narrative to my life — writing letters, drinking coffee in old diners, taking road-trips, and yes, I do remember talking on a rotary phone! Now, of course, I email, use a cell phone and fly! I like creating these small tokens based on memory or even desires (I really want a vintage scout camper). I think a lot of people can relate to this and have fun wearing these pieces.
In your opinion, what makes a successful design? I think a personal connection to the designer. It is important to look around and be inspired by art and design, but then to process it and make it your own. This really develops a unique voice that will continue to make exciting work.
What is your most favorite piece in your collection? Retro Bowling Lady was my first piece and still holds a special place. I wore it out for the first time in SF and had people on the streets stop me to see where I got it from! It was a real booster to keep pursuing Neogranny.
If you could take a peek into any designer or artist's studio, living or deceased, who would it be and why? That's hard question! There are tons... For starters, I would love to have had some coffee in Ray and Charles Eames Studio. They seemed like quite the dynamic duo with design sensibilities way ahead of their time. Also, Joseph Cornell — all those boxes of neat things he had sorted for his assemblage work! It would be great to just sit there and watch him put his shadow boxes together.
What is your most favorite thing about designing? Well, it justifies all those trips to the thrift store! And of course, the finished results of a freshly painted necklace that I can sport. I love re-inventing from images and objects I find.
What has been one the hardest things you've created? In the beginning of Neogranny I spent a long time testing materials and painting techniques before I found a system that worked. Then really sticking to all of it and keeping it "Neogranny" to develop a cohesive series.
I see that your plaques are pretty small. Have you ever considered creating larger works? Yes! My little plaques right now are starter baby art. I love giving them as gifts and tag the back with a name and a birthdate. I have a few ideas brewing for some larger wall pieces...stay tuned!
Do you take custom orders? Of course! I love hearing ideas people have with my designs. If there is a color or style I don't carry I would love to try it.
You are most proud of...Starting a business that is all my own! The whole process of taking all the skills I've learned from various jobs and interests and apply them to my own ideas. I wish I had done this years ago!
In five years you want to...Own a studio/shop featuring cool handmade and vintage goodies. Merge my two loves: collecting and making!
Do you have any upcoming events where people can see more of your work? I will be selling my wares with the Renegade Craft Fair in Brooklyn and in San Francisco this summer. Also, my work is being sold in a really neat traveling art show called America: Here and Now.
What is your favorite tool to use in designing? Sketch book and my lovely Mac.
What is one thing you cannot go without? My camera!
Do you have assistants or do you do everything yourself? My husband has been a huge sounding board/schemer since I started this. He really motivated me to keep developing my ideas into a business model — something as an artist I have not been good at!
My favorite thing about North Carolina is...Well, I've been her almost two years and so far it's the mild, mild winters I really dig. Oh, and everybody I meet is so laid back and nice!
Coffee or tea? Coffee please!
To see more of Neogranny’s collection, please visit the website.
Brandi Moody is an artist and designer living in Raleigh. By day she’s a graphic designer and illustrator for her own design studio. Read more about her life, work and inspiration on her blog, Ever So Lovely.